The UK is making significant steps in reducing its food waste, with total food waste levels falling by 480,000 tonnes between 2015 and 2018 – a 7% reduction per person and equivalent of filling London’s Royal Albert Hall ten times.
The new data comes from sustainability not-for-profit WRAP’s latest Courtauld Commitment 2025 milestone report, which sets out progress in food waste reduction since 2007. It reveals that households and businesses are now tackling the problem at an accelerated rate, with a greater rate of progress from 2015 to 2018 than over the preceding five years.
Looking back to when WRAP began work on household food waste, a total of 1.4 million tonnes of food has been saved from going to waste each year in our homes compared to 2007 levels – enough each year to fill 150,000 food collection trucks which, if placed end to end, would stretch from London to Prague.
While good progress, there is much more to do WRAP warns – across the whole food chain. The report shows that UK households still waste 4.5 million tonnes of food that could have been eaten, worth £14 billion every year (£700 for an average family with children). The volume of food still wasted equates to ten billion meals.
By wasting less food, we are helping to tackle the biggest challenges this century – feeding the world whilst protecting our planet
A reduction of 4% in the supply chain also shows good overall progress from businesses, but WRAP says many more businesses need to step up their action on food waste to help halve global food waste by 2030.
The significant decrease in household food waste can be attributed to a range of factors including heightened public awareness through WRAP’s Love Food Hate Wastecampaign, clearer labelling on food packaging, and more local authorities offering residents separate food waste collections in line with WRAP’s Framework for More Consistent Collections – helping to raise awareness within the home.
Marcus Gover, WRAP CEO, “We are in a new decade and have just ten years if we are to honour our international commitment to halve food waste. This really matters because it is untenable that we carry on wasting food on such a monumental scale when we are seeing the visible effects of climate change every day, and when nearly a billion people go hungry every day.
“This great news announced today means we are starting to wake up to the reality of food waste, but we are too often turning a blind eye to what is happening in our homes. We are all thinking about what we can do for the environment and this is one of the most simple and powerful ways we can play our part.
“By wasting less food, we are helping to tackle the biggest challenges this century – feeding the world whilst protecting our planet.”
However, while the most significant drop in household food waste since 2010, WRAP’s latest annual citizen survey – also released today – found that despite more of the public being aware of the issue of food waste, less than half of the population (39 per cent ) connect wasting food at home with the impact this has on the environment.
Based on self-reported estimates for the most commonly wasted foods (potatoes, bread, chicken and milk) it appears around one in three people would still be classified as being high food wasters.
While the UK is a global leader in tackling food waste and supporting international food waste prevention projects, WRAP wants the UK to go further, faster.
The organisation will continue to work closely with governments, businesses and citizens to address this throughout 2020; including the launch of a bold and far-reaching public campaign to ignite a national food conversation and complement the work of Love Food Hate Waste.
More can be done
Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “Each year, tonnes of good-quality, nutritious food needlessly goes to waste, harming our environment and climate. As a world-leader in the fight against food waste, it is good news that we are making a real difference.
“But while this is encouraging, there is more to be done – and I urge all households, individuals and businesses to consider how they can reduce their own food waste footprint to create a better world for generations to come.”
Government Food Waste Champion Ben Elliot said: “These new statistics are extremely encouraging and demonstrate a big step in the right direction. However, we must still keep marching – more needs to be done, across every business and every household, if we are to hit the milestone targets set out in the Courtauld Commitment 2025 report.”
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “In reducing our impact on the planet, food waste is an area where all citizens and organisations can make a difference. We are making significant progress in Scotland and our latest Programme for Government sets out further measures for action on food waste this year, together with our Circular Economy Bill, which will help tackle our throw-away culture still further.”
I urge all households, individuals and businesses to consider how they can reduce their own food waste footprint to create a better world for generations to come
“I appreciate the work that the Courtauld 2025 signatories and WRAP are undertaking to tackle food waste and the pivotal role they have in bringing us together – across governments, manufacturers and retailers – – to share knowledge, outcomes, experience and successes.”
Hannah Blythyn, Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government said: “We know how important it is to tackle food waste and we are one of the few nations in the world to have universal, weekly household food waste collections – which this research shows can also help to reduce food waste.
“But we need to encourage more people to separate their waste effectively. Businesses and public bodies will soon be required to separate their waste too, just as households already do, helping to further reduce food waste.
“Our ongoing support of Fare Share Cymru has helped redistribute surplus food from the supply chain and they have distributed the equivalent of more than eight million meals since 2011, saving more than 3,000 tonnes of food from landfill.
“Last month I launched a major consultation on a new circular economy strategy for Wales, which will build on the successes of the last 20 years and which sets out the steps we can take to avoid waste and keep resources in use for as long as possible.”